Professional bodies
Professional bodies

The following Competition guidance note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Professional bodies
  • Professional bodies—case analysis

The prohibition on anti-competitive agreements applies to 'decisions by associations of undertakings', agreements entered into by individual undertakings and collusive conduct.

It is settled that those offering professional services, whether as a self-employed adviser or as part of a firm, are classed as undertakings and within the scope of competition law as long as they are carrying on an economic activity, for example, offering advice in return for payment. Examples of professions that the courts have held to be subject to competition law are:

  1. customs agents (who deal with customs formalities for importers/exporters)

  2. self-employed medical professionals (eg not those employed by a national health service)

  3. lawyers.

The bodies representing professionals may also be subject to competition law. This includes, for example, professional bodies (eg the Bar Association or the British Medical Association) that are in effect trade associations representing and also regulating members of the relevant professions.

There are two important issues that determine if an action of a professional body can be treated as being a decision of an association of undertakings (like trade associations) and within the scope of Article 101 TFEU (and Chapter I of the Competition Act 1998). Firstly, if the action in question is linked to economic activity of itself or its members (ie the offering of services, including advice, in return for payment). For example, the regulation of